It’s been four years since the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series followed the compass north to Joliet, Ill., and settled in for a weekend of competition at Route 66 Raceway.
Anticipation levels are running high for fans, teams and drivers alike as the series makes its return to the Midwest drag strip for the Gerber Class & Collision NHRA Route 66 Nationals on May 19-21.
Top Fuel’s Austin Prock, Funny Car’s Robert Hight and Pro Stock’s Deric Kramer will be coming off a victorious high after visiting winner’s circle during the Circle K Four-Wide Nationals three weeks ago at North Carolina’s zMAX Dragway.
With five races down and 16 to go, the season is beginning to pick up speed.
DeJoria Keeps Pushing
Alexis DeJoria is one Funny Car driver to keep an eye on.
DeJoria finished runner-up at the recent four-wide event at zMAX Dragway, also logging her career-best elapsed time (3.854 seconds at 332.51 mph) during the first round of eliminations.
While impressive, it is only one of a handful of eye-catching performances from the DC Motorsports driver. DeJoria has already stormed to two semifinal finishes, along with two second-round exits and recent final round appearance.
“The more final-round appearances we make, it’s only a matter of time; we’re going to win one of these soon,” DeJoria said.
Heading into Route 66 Raceway, she is second in the Funny Car standings, with Matt Hagan leading and Hight third.
DeJoria is chasing her first win since Oct. 17, 2021.
Team Kalitta Tests At IRP
It’s not been the easiest road for Team Kalitta during the early stretch of the NHRA season.
Ever since Funny Car driver J.R. Todd experienced two major wrecks at the Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals in Pomona, Calif., the team has been playing catch up. Across the board, with Top Fuel drivers Doug Kalitta and Shawn Langdon, the operation has been denied its turn in the winner’s circle.
To combat the tough losses, the team conducted a three-driver test at Indianapolis Raceway Park on Wednesday, May 17, ahead of this weekend’s Route 66 Nationals.
After Winternationals Trouble, Team Kalitta Needs A Win
“We expect our teams to perform at a high level. We’ve had some great moments this season, but we lost our way,” said general manager Chad Head. “If a team has a bad race, we stay after the event to figure out what’s wrong through testing, but when all three teams aren’t living up to expectations, we owe it to our corporate partners and ourselves to do everything we can to get our teams where they need to be.”
Head believes the test was the “right play” for where the team is at this point in the season.
Each driver made five runs to test competitive setups.
“The combined 15 runs showed us what we needed to know. Now we’re energized, looking forward to racing in Chicago this weekend and hoping to win the race,” Head said.
Notably, Hagan (Funny Car) and Erica Enders (Pro Stock) also tested recently.
Which Active NHRA Drivers Have Won At Route 66?
The last time NHRA visited Route 66 Raceway was in 2019. Steve Torrence won in the Top Fuel category, Tommy Johnson Jr. scored in Funny Car and Kramer took the Pro Stock honors.
Of current Top Fuel drivers, five competitors are past winners at the Illinois’ drag strip — Tony Schumacher (5), Antron Brown (3), Kalitta (3), Torrence (2) and Clay Millican (1).
It’s a similar story in the Funny Car category, as five active drivers have taken a trip to the Route 66 winner’s circle — John Force (3), Hagan (3), Ron Capps (2), Hight (1) and Tim Wilkerson (1).
As for Pro Stock, there are only three current racers who have tasted victory there — Greg Anderson (2), Erica Enders (1) and Kramer (1). Notably, Enders’ win at Route 66 was her first national event win.